We hear this word— Immanuel, or Emmanuel— so much at Christmas time. We read in Matthew 1 that it means God With Us. Maybe we stop for a moment and think— how nice. God With Us. What a lovely sentiment.
But this is far more than a lovely sentiment to be printed in shiny letters on artsy Christmas cards. It is a reality— a daily, living reality that ought to affect our daily lives.
The beautiful truth about God’s desire to be with His people is that it did not begin when He sent His Son to be among us. His desire was always that mankind would walk with Him in fellowship. We were never meant to be strangers with God. We see this in the book of Genesis—God walking with Adam and Eve in the garden. And we see the devastation when they sinned and divided themselves from God, from His glory. From that moment, all of us have fallen short of the glory of God, all of us have been separated from the God who created us for intimate fellowship with Him.
The story of the whole Bible is really the story of God With Us. Time and again, through all of history, God has come to man and offered them the opportunity to know Him. He dwelt among His people in cloud and flame, and His presence dwelt in the tabernacle and later, the temple. Through the intricate series of laws and sacrifices, God’s people could know Him—His holiness, His glory, His perfection, His power. Again and again God’s people turned away from the God in their midst, and again and again He offered Himself to them, always promising that someday there would be more—a King on a throne who would rule in their midst.
And in the fullness of time—God came. Not as the Israelites expected, because He was more than a King and Conqueror of armies. He didn’t just want to be in the midst as King. Jesus came and dwelt among flesh—became flesh—so that God could be with us in the most precious and intimate of ways. So that we could see that God is holy and powerful and glorious and huge—and that He is love, and grace, God of the small as well as the great, gentle as well as mighty, humble as well as exalted. Jesus dwelt among us in a way that we could relate to as human beings. And He didn’t just take on flesh—in the end He took on our sin and bore it to the cross, so that we could once again have perfect fellowship with God. He is God With Us every day, and this name Immanuel reminds us not just that Jesus was born, but that He paid the price of our sins so we could be with Him forever, that He sent His Spirit to indwell us—God With Us every single day of our lives, the guarantee of our eternity in heaven, in a city called “The Lord is There” (Ezekiel 48:35).
This Christmas season, as I consider the familiar story of God incarnate, I am challenged by the reminder that God is with me today—that His Spirit dwells in me daily, giving me the power and courage and help I need for each task. The promise of God With Us is a promise for today—for each moment, for each challenge, each sorrow, each joy.
What a beautiful truth—Our God Is With Us.